Mubasher: Saudi Arabia’s online travel sector saw a 536% surge in debit card transactions during the first six months of this year, as part of a nonstop industry growth throughout the GCC region, according to a recent report released by the Cleartrip and Flyin.
The “H1 & Summer 2018 Travel Insights Report” said that the positive industry growth has coupled with a surge in the number of travellers arranging their journeys through their mobile phones.
Commenting on the key findings of the report, founder and CEO of Cleartrip said that competitive airfares, easier visa regulations and mounting marketing efforts by destinations have boosted the steady growth of the GCC’s online air travel industry.
This in return encouraged the Middle East's major mobile and online travel companies to upgrade travel and accommodation solutions in a bid to meet the expectations of the region’s travellers, he added.
Debit card payments
In the same vein, the report found that credit card accounted for 60% of online bookings in Saudi Arabia, remaining the preferred payment method for bookings in the GCC nation on the back of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority’s (SAMA) initiative that enabled Mada debit cardholders to conduct online shopping deals for the first time.
This drove the 536% increase in debit card transactions in the kingdom's online travel sector, which made up 39% of Cleartrip’s payments in Saudi Arabia, according to the report.
GCC nationals love travel
The GCC's air travel as a whole grew during H1-18, with a 2% expansion in the Saudi market.
Kuwait witnessed the fastest growing market with a 13% growth, while the UAE, Bahrain and Oman recorded a 3% year-on-year hike each during the same period, according to the report.
“The region’s most trending destinations during the January-June period included Los Angeles, Kabul and Geneva, closely followed by Tbilisi, New York and Baku. Meanwhile, Cairo, Istanbul, New Delhi, Abha and Alexandria emerged as the most popular summer travel destinations for KSA-based customers,” it said.
Cleartrip and Flyin said that the last-minute booking remains “popular” among the GCC's travellers, especially in Saudi Arabia, where 65% of online reservations taking place within two weeks of the travel date.
More than two in five customers across the GCC states bought their air travel tickets less than a week prior to departure.
Mobile bookings on the rise
The report also said that Saudi Arabia registered a 218% growth in mobile reservations in H1-18, or 29% of overall bookings, overshadowing the mounting shift to mobile across the GCC.
“Oman emerged as the country with the highest rate of Mobile Booking Penetration (MBP), registering 130% growth with 35% of bookings made on mobile devices,” it added.
Air ticket prices
It’s worth noting that Saudi Arabia posted a 9% decline in air ticket prices, while Bahrain saw a 12% increase, highlighting the continuous pricing fluctuations in the region’s online air travel sector.
The UAE registered the highest average fare per booking at $157, while Oman had the lowest in the region at $110.
Flights from Dubai to Bangkok recorded the greatest decrease in airfares at 16%, while the Abu Dhabi to Manila route saw the biggest increase, with a 41% surge in airfares during the first six months of 2018, the report said.